BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
KOROR, Palau — The Our Ocean Conference due to be held in Koror in December will be postponed to 2021.
But investments made in infrastructure in support of the conference have been completed.
President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. said on Oct. 28, “While we had hoped that the pandemic would abate, continuing public health concerns and travel restrictions have made an in-person conference in Palau unfeasible at this time”
He said the conference is best held in-person, as commitments and partnerships will be made by nations involved in ensuring the health of the ocean.
“We want the conference to continue to engage in high-level dialogue, build meaningful partnerships and mobilize ambitious new commitments for our ocean, and this will be best achieved by an in-person meeting next year as opposed to a virtual conference now.”
The decision was taken by Palau in consultation with the Our Ocean Conference Advisory Group, he said.
Specific dates and a timeline for the 2021 event will be set next year.
Despite the postponement, the infrastructure for the event was completed in September.
In a handover ceremony on Sept. 29, the Palau government unveiled the conference’s Global Village, which consists of all the facilities upgraded and improved to host Our Oceans 2020. Improvements exceeded $16 million.
The renovations, procurement of equipment and completion was organized and managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services.
The former Congress building in Koror was upgraded. The main plenary hall – the Palau National Gym — was also extensively renovated and retrofitted. Palau Community College classrooms and the cafeteria were renovated to serve as side events venues. Ernguul Park, formerly referred to as Bethehem, was also renovated and upgraded.
Other improvements include the Asahi baseball field, and the parking lot and sidewalks from around Ernguul park to Palau Community College.
The Palau National Communication Corp. was also awarded almost $500,000 for internet connectivity improvement to the Global Village.
Donor countries and organizations — which included Japan, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, India and the Nippon Foundation were represented virtually at the Sept. 29 event.
The global village concept was chosen to showcase the concept of a village, especially Palau’s traditional concept of a village. “A village is the building block of Palau’s communities, where people rely on each other, share with each other, talk with each other and support each other through good times and challenges,” Remengesau said when the concept was announced.
Remengesau made the postponement announcement on the fifth anniversary of the Palau Marine Sanctuary law signing.
Remengesau also addressed broad ocean conservation aims in October.
“As we approach the end of the year, we need to bear in mind that the world will not have met the biodiversity targets for our ocean that we set a decade ago in Aichi, Japan under the Convention on Biodiversity. We hope that Our Ocean 2021 can be a moment to build back better and showcase new action coalitions and partnerships in our transition to a sustainable ocean economy,” he said.
Panama has agreed to host the conference in 2022. mbj